Anonymous donation allows St. Marys Fire to replace aging thermal imaging camera
The Beacon Herald
“This never happens.”

That was what St. Marys Fire Chief Richard “Andy” Anderson had to say about an anonymous donation of $9,000 that allowed his department to purchase not one, but two brand new thermal imaging cameras to replace the aging, 15-year-old model firefighters had been using previously.

While manning a Fire Prevention Week booth at the Independent Grocer in St. Marys in October, Anderson said a woman approached him out of the blue and asked what the fire department needed most.

“I said, ‘Well, we could use a new fire hall,” Anderson laughed. “She goes, ‘Think a little bit smaller,” so I said our thermal imaging camera is 15 years old, I’ve replaced the battery packs on it twice, and it dies on us in a fire in like 10 minutes, and I said it’s not in the budget.

“… So she walks away… and she comes back and says, ‘Who do I make the cheque out to?’”

And while the donation was originally only supposed to cover one camera, when Anderson called up the manufacturer to place his order, the sales representative told him he could return his old model for a 30 per cent rebate.

With that extra money, Anderson was able to purchase both a basic camera and a more advanced camera for the department.

Firefighters use thermal imaging cameras to see areas of heat through smoke, darkness, or heat-permeable barriers. While the cameras can be used to target hot spots behind walls, their most important function is to help firefighters locate people trapped inside burning buildings.

“When you cannot see a foot in front of you — it’s so black, it’s so dark — this cuts through everything and it picks up your heat image, and basically you can find that person,” Anderson said. “… You can find them instantly, and then we can get to them and get them out.”

Since anonymous donations like this are a rarity, Anderson said his new cameras are the envy of fire departments across Perth County.

Though he gave the anonymous donor every opportunity to take her gift public, Anderson said the woman was only interested in helping the fire department save lives as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“What she said to me was, ‘When I hear the sirens going off… I know that you guys are getting up out of bed at home… and you’re going out for the community, and… I wanted to do something nice.’

“… She goes, ‘Every time I hear the sirens, I think of you guys, so that’s why I wanted to do it.’”

Other individuals and organizations that would like to donate to the St. Marys Fire Department can contact Anderson at 519-284-2340 ext. 201.

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